Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ten Things I Want To Thank My Mother For On The Occasion Of Her 75th Birthday

Mom and Dad - aren't they gorgeous?

My mom's 75th birthday is today. (How is that possible?)

It's a milestone birthday and richly deserving of some kind of official recognition on a scale equal with the Queen's Jubilee, although I suspect Paul McCartney and Elton John won't be serenading my dear mother while she imbibes in barbecued hot dogs and birthday cake. Thus having no celebrity performances or parades in the plan, the least I can do is present Ten Things I Want To Thank My Mother For On The Occasion Of Her 75th Birthday:

1. Thanks for having beautiful dark hair and big brown eyes and tremendous dimples and passing those gorgeous things my way.

2. Thanks for your kindness and generosity, your big heart, your all-round niceness. You have always been, and will always be, a lady in the old-fashioned and true sense of the word. Except when you give bad drivers the finger. Or when you perfectly hork your gum out of the window of a moving car which, by the way, is a skill I admire and try to emulate whenever possible. You look like you would never say shit even if your mouth was full of it, except when you do say shit. Which you almost never do. Mostly your swear word of choice is "asshole" which usually accompanies giving bad drivers the finger.

Family portrait taken in Midland, mid 1960s. That's me with my teddy bear.
My little sister, Liz, wasn't born yet.
3. Thank you for busting your middle finger and having it wrapped in a cast in the up position for a month. It wouldn't have been nearly as funny if you had broken your index finger or your baby finger. I never grew tired of seeing you wave that stiff bandaged gauze covered middle digit around. Thank you for being funny.

4. Thank you for having that dream about the giant squirrel chasing you up a telephone pole. When did you have that dream... back in the 1960s? See? A dream that's almost 50 years old, a dream that wasn't even my own, and I still think of it. You probably forget it entirely but I remember we were sitting in your bedroom in Midland, that big bedroom in that big old house, and we were talking about bad dreams  and you said the scariest dream you ever had was about a giant squirrel chasing you up a telephone pole. It was funny, this dream of a giant squirrel, and I still think it's so cute that your scariest dream was about a plus-sized squirrel. We were all so young then. I was just a little kid, maybe five or six. You were in your 20s. A girl, really. You always seemed so beautiful to me. Even in that ratty old pink housecoat, the one with the black buttons. Even when you had curlers in your hair. I loved those conversations at bedtime. You were the best mother imaginable.

5. Thanks for rubbing Watkins White Liniment on my legs when I was crying with rheumatism. You gave me a baby Aspirin, you rubbed liniment on my knees and you dried my tears with your kindness and your patience. I still have bad knees and I can't tell you how often I think of you when I'm rubbing Voltaren or Deep Cold onto my aching legs. It never feels as good as when you did it. It never will. Funny, how no matter what was wrong with me, no matter what I was crying about, you always gave me a baby Aspirin to make feel better. Just yesterday I had a terrible day at work and was bawling and feeling sorry for myself and thinking the world hated me. I went to the bathroom and took two Tylenol. I had no pain to speak of. Only the pain in my heart. But I thought of you when I took those pills and you know what, they made me feel better. Thanks.

Mom opening a Christmas present (from Simpson's!) in Markham, 1970s.
6. Thanks for making me spaghetti when I had my period that time when I was a teenager. I really wanted spaghetti for supper that night. We didn't have it often, mostly because Dad didn't like it, but I really wanted it this one time so I said, "I have a craving for it," and you knew it was a womanly-thing, a period-thing, so you made spaghetti using a can of Bravo spaghetti sauce. Dad probably bitched about it but to me it was more delicious than the juiciest steak and also our womanly secret.

7. Thanks for not murdering me. I know, there was times when I deserved it. So thanks for not shooting me in my retreating back when I ran away from home; or hanging me for a thief when I stole money from my brother; or strangling me when I was mouthy, which was all the time so frankly your arthritic fingers couldn't have borne that much strangling; or stabbing me with a butter knife when I refused to help with the dishes. Charming child, I was. Charming adult, too. Sorry about all that. Wish I could have been better because you deserved better.

8. Thanks for having beautiful penmanship; for being a talented artist; for being creative in all things. I love the way you write – I know that sounds silly but your handwriting truly is a thing of beauty. As a messy writer I envy and admire that about you. Also, you should blog more because you are a natural born storyteller with many, many stories to tell. You know me, I hate to be bossy, but get busy. :)

9. Thank you for ordering birthday cakes from Stouffville Bakery, the vanilla double layer ones with lemon curd filling. Thanks for the typewriter under the Christmas tree. Thanks for paying my way through college. Thanks for decorating the yard so beautifully for my first wedding. Thanks for playing Here Comes the Bride on the organ. Thanks for making the world's best apple pies. Thanks for taking us up to the cottage and letting us run wild and have the best times of our lives, while you sat alone and lonely with a crossword puzzle book and your own thoughts. Thanks for supporting me through thick and thin. You have never let me down, never. In a world where nothing is sure and people are cruel, you are my one constant, my rock. Thank you for unselfishly giving up your own life for your family.

10. Thank you for everything. I love you so much. Happy Birthday!

Mom and blue-haired Angus at his Grade 8 graduation last year.
She's still gorgeous. He still has blue hair.

P.S. The birthday girl sent me an e-mail last night to say how much she loved this post and everyone's comments and good wishes. She wanted me to pass on her thanks to you because she was having trouble posting a reply:

"Thanks Cathy for all the kind words you said about me. Thanks to all the people who sent great comments. I tried to comment but it didn't work. I had forgotten about the squirrel dream. That's funny. Thank you very much. See you to-morrow. Love Mom"

P.S.S. I'd like to thank CarrieBoo for her generous donation to the YMCA's Adult Literacy Programs, through my participation in the upcoming Muskoka Novel Marathon. THANK YOU CARRIE! She has a really fun blog, by the way, where she talks about family life and foibles and writing in an entirely entertaining way. Check her out! The novel marathon is getting closer - it all starts Friday, July 13 (eek!) with a whole weekend of writing, writing and more writing at Club 55 in Huntsville. Thirty writers will try their darndest to pump out a novel in that time, as well as raising as much money as they can so other people can learn to read and write. It's astonishing how many adults are illiterate in this day and age. Until I saw the statistics, I had no idea. If you'd like to find out more about the marathon, visit the website. If you'd like to sponsor my own efforts, click on the Muskoka chair (in the States it's called an Adirondack chair) on the top right side of my blog. I am thrilled about the support I've had so far and it makes my heart sing every time I see another donation. So thanks everyone! oxoox

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thanks James

I love you, James Taylor. Thanks.

When you're down and troubled and you need a helping hand
and nothing, whoa, nothing is going right.
Close your eyes and think of me and soon I will be there 
to brighten up even your darkest nights.

You just call out my name, and you know where ever I am
I'll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call 
and I'll be there, yeah, yeah,
you've got a friend.

If the sky above you should turn dark and full of clouds
and that old north wind should begin to blow,
keep your head together and call my name out loud.
Soon I will be knocking upon your door.
You just call out my name, and you know where ever I am
I'll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call and I'll be there.

Hey, ain't it good to know that you've got a friend? 
People can be so cold.
They'll hurt you and desert you. Well, they'll take your soul if you let them,
oh yeah, but don't you let them.

You just call out my name, and you know where ever I am
I'll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call, Lord, I'll be there, yeah, yeah,
you've got a friend. You've got a friend.
Ain't it good to know you've got a friend. Ain't it good to know you've got a friend.
Oh, yeah, yeah, you've got a friend.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Shopper's senior's discount

That's it. It's official. I'm old as dirt.

The other day I was into Shopper's Drug Mart in Bracebridge, laying down one-tenth of my weekly pay cheque on feminine hygiene products and soap. What a total waste of money, I tell ya. Think how rich I'd be if I was a man who didn't bathe.

Not that I know any men like that ....

My first indication that I was Old came when I was floundering around with the debit machine. Not that I want to offend anyone but, come on. Everyone knows old people have trouble with debit machines. Young people, why they just zip their card through with the confidence borne from being hatched with their fingers on the text button. Makes for some painful childbirth, I gotta tell you. Those little cell phone buttons and antennaes hurt on the way out. Thank god for touch-screens.

Old people, well, how do I say this... they just SUCK at debit machines, drive-through banking windows and even ATMs. Have you ever been behind an old person in line to pay for something? They always swipe their card the wrong way, for starters. Then they forget their pin number. Then they punch in the wrong pin number and they often hit chequing instead of savings and vice versa so they have to run through the whole process about 50 times until they get it right.

So there I was, fecking up the debit machine at Shopper's. I have a new chip debit card and I'm never sure what end is the right end. One end has a square chippy looking thing but the other end has markings that look sort of like arrows. Why can't it just have a sentence that says INSERT HERE? Honestly. So there I was floundering around with the wrong end of the card. The lady reset it and I tried the other end, but I didn't push it in far enough so she had to reset it again. This time I tried swiping it but I swiped it backwards. Finally I got the feckitty-fecking card in right but I was so embarrassed that I momentarily forgot my pin number. I stared at the woman with my mouth gawping open and drool threatening to come out while my mind completely erased. It was like the black screen of death on my computer. It took a few inexorably long, painful, horrible moments before my brain rebooted and I remembered the pin number.

But of course I hadn't remembered it exactly. The machine screen screamed at me, in all-caps: INCORRECT PIN NUMBER. TRANSACTION CANCELLED. PLEASE TRY AGAIN. Feck, feck, feck.

The lady behind the counter was not amused, so I tried my level best to amuse her. That's what I do. Always try to amuse those who cannot and will not be amused. If I can garner a smile out of one of these pickle-up-their-butt sourpusses, I feel I have served my greater purpose in the universe.

"That's what happens when you get to my age," I said to her, shooting her a dazzling smile and hoping I had no dinner remnants wedged between my teeth. "You forget how to use the debit machine." I was hoping she'd say something like, "Oh, you're not old, what are you talking about?" But she was busily ignoring me while she reset our transaction.

Not content with leaving well enough alone I said, "Pretty soon I'll be ready for the senior's discount. How old do you have to be for that anyway?" I was thinking she was going to say 60, or maybe even 55.

"Fifty," she said.

"Fifty," I repeated. "Really."

"Really," she said. "You can insert your card again. This way." She showed me which end to insert.

"So I'm old enough to get a senior's discount," I said. Shocked. I hoped she'd say, "Naaaa, you don't look old enough for a senior's discount."

"Yep," she said.

I asked her what, exactly the senior's discount was. "Twenty per cent off all purchases on Thursdays."

TWENTY PER CENT OFF. I didn't know what to think. I was excited and depressed all at the same time. My mind was racing between, YOU'RE A SENIOR and YOU'RE GONNA GET STUFF CHEAPER and SHIT - I GET PAID ON FRIDAYS AND THUS HAVE NO MONEY ON THURSDAYS.

Yesterday was my supervisor's 50th birthday. We threw a pot luck party for him. He got a nice bottle of Chivas as a present but the biggest excitement came when I announced he now qualified for the senior's discount at Shopper's. He was so excited he texted his slightly younger wife to tell her the big news.

Then it dawned on him – he would now be the one to pay for his wife's soap and feminine hygiene products every Thursday for several years to come.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Born to be wild and have a really flat ass

There have been some "discussions" about Dave's new motorcycle. When he first was talking about buying a used donor-cycle I had an opinion. I know, hard to believe, me having an opinion.

"Get a big one," I said. "Like a Goldwing. Something we can both sit on comfortably." I know he thinks of me as being a slender young tart with a narrow derriere so I had to remind him that I am old and creaky with a rather enormous butt that doesn't sit well on crotch rockets and in other smallish spaces.

He did not listen to me, obviously still believing I have the butt of a small boy, and bought a mid-sized bike. A Kawasaki Vulcan, 750, I think. I mention this in case you know something about bikes and only to help you imagine the seat on which our butts sit.

I was nervous about the bike. Well, maybe nervous isn't strong enough a word. I was actually scared out of my cheesely mind. Every time I climbed aboard all I could think was how violently my melon was going to explode when I hit the pavement. Dave is a good driver though and it wasn't long before I relaxed and started to LOVE going on the bike. That is precisely the moment that Dave decided the bike wasn't big enough to take us on long rides. I was like, what the heck? I TOLD you to get a big bike! Instead of arguing with me further, because he has learned there is no point, we decided to hit the open road on Saturday.

The first half hour was pure bliss. I raised my arms in the air proclaiming I'M KING OF THE WORLD and hugging my baby and clinking helmets and singing "like a true nature child, I was born, born to be wild" on a loop because those are the only words I know.

The second half hour my butt started to go a wee bit numb. Just a wee bit. Dave started squiggling in his own seat and it wasn't long before he pulled over for a break. "How's your bum?" he asked. "A little numb," I replied. Because I am a poet.

A while later it wasn't Steppenwolf I was singing, it was Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb."

We took lots of breaks but the bike ass we were experiencing was cumulative and by the end of the day my butt was as flat as a proverbial pancake. There was no more singing. There was screaming. From my ass. My ass was screaming, "GET ME OFF THIS STUPID BIKE RIGHT NOW," and when it wasn't screaming at me it was asking, "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we almost there? How bout now? Are we there yet? Huh? Are we there? Are we there?"

The pain was exquisite. Who knew a butt could hurt so much just from sitting on a motorcycle for a day? Oh, and my knees hurt just as much as my arse. When I finally got off I was walking like a greenhorn who just got off a horse, all bow-legged and saddle sore.

Other than that, it was a good day.

Oh, wait a minute. That's not true. We did have a rather horrifying moment when the bike broke down halfway between Dwight and Huntsville in the middle of fecking nowhere.

Not having a cell phone, because we are the only two people in the universe who don't have one, apparently, Dave said, "We're going to have to push the bike into town." Town was about 15 km away. A rather long jaunt for two out of shape old people walking bow-legged, pushing a broken flat-ass-inducing motorcycle.

Dave being a mechanic and all, he was able to wiggle some wires and check the spark and even though he didn't think he could do it, he fixed the problem and we were on our way again. You know how he checked the spark? He stuck a screwdriver in the cap-thingey where the spark plug goes and then he yelped and said, "yup, lots of spark there." As if that wasn't bad enough, he had to do the same thing with the other plug. I was like, "seriously? You're gonna do that again?" When he was done his ears were smoking and his hair was curly.

Dave's new-to-him toy. This ass-break photo was taken
at a roadside parkette between Algonquin Park and Dwight,
before the breakdown. Thus, he still likes the bike.

Boat launch at Dwight. It was a fine day, a real beauty.

This bear is one of the roadside attractions at The Dwight
Trading Post, a gift shop and snack stand that sells all kinds
of tacky knick-knacks, tremendously comfortable moccasins
and really tasty fudge.

Dave-the-mechanic goes to work fixing the bike. Thank goodness he did.
I just could not imagine walking for 15 km.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Slack and Field Day

Yesterday my son Sam had a Bum Day. No, nothing to do with his derriere, other than he spent the whole day sitting on it. With my permission, of course, because yesterday was Track and Field Day at his school and I wouldn't make my worst enemy suffer through Track and Field Day.

It's fine if you're one of the five kids at every school who are actually athletic. For the rest of us, T&FD is exquisite torture. First of all, it is always held on the hottest freaking day of the year. Ninety-five degrees in the shade and, the beauty of T&FD is it's in a FIELD where there is no shade, so the sun just beats down on all the non-athletic, sweating-like-buckets, humiliated-beyond-belief puddles of torture-victim humanity we call schoolchildren.

It's not like we were ever trained for such events. Oh, OK, so maybe we had one session of standing long jump in gym class one day, just enough of a lesson to know you were never, ever, going to jump more than eight inches from the line. That, to me, was the stupidest of the events: stand there and jump. Really? What genius dreamt that up? "Geez, Bob, let's draw a line in the dirt and see who can jump further. Yup, yup, that sounds like fun, yup, yup."

High jump isn't much better. Again with the jumping – what are we, frogs? People are meant to stand on two feet, not leap about like gazelles. Obviously only a few of us are capable of doing that freakish lying on your back in middair thing that gets you across the pole. The rest of us have to deal with the gravity that gloms onto our sweaty backsides and keeps us anchored firmly to the dirt.

And don't even get me started on running races. I could not care less about who can run faster. You can run faster than me? Well, goodie for you. You go right ahead and sweat like a pig and twist your ankle and look smoking-hot-silly in the school gym uniform while all your wobbly bits shake and shudder as you blunder across the finish line – all that so you can get a green Participation ribbon.

I always vowed no child of mine would be forced to endure T&FD.

So Happy Bum Day, Sam.


Thanks to everyone who has sponsored me in the upcoming Muskoka Novel Marathon.

I'm nowhere close to my goal and would appreciate any help you can give, even if it's a mention on your own blog. For all the details, click here. To donate, click on the Muskoka Chair over on the top right of my blog. I apologize for being so yappy about this but I think it's a great cause. You're never, ever too old to learn how to read and write.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I could use your help – Musoka Novel Marathon 2012

From our local newspaper when I participated in the
2010 Muskoka Novel Marathon.

OK, I don't think I've ever done this. Asked for money on this blog. I've asked for votes, I've asked for participation in blog contests but I don't believe I've ever asked anyone for actual cold hard cash (except my mother, who I have asked far too many times over my lifetime – sorry Mom). So here goes. Now's your chance to run away ... get going! Get!

Still here?

I could really use your help. I'm participating in the 2012 Muskoka Novel Marathon to help raise money for YMCA adult literacy programs. You wouldn't think, in this country, in this day and age of free, public education, that anyone could manage to go through life without being able to read or write but in the District of Muskoka alone, one-third of the population is illiterate. And according to recent studies, 27 per cent of Canadians aged 45 to 65 have zero to rudimentary literacy skills. Statistics are even higher in other countries.

You don't have that problem. Otherwise you wouldn't be a blogger. But can you imagine going through life not being able to read and write? Here are some examples, taking from one of the co-covenors of the Novel Marathon, writer Karen Wehrstein:

In these times, the written word is ubiquitous, in every aspect of life.
As a news junkie, I take it totally for granted that, any time I like, I can find out what’s happening, from every angle, all over the world. A person who can’t read is limited to what people tell him, or the relatively shallow and parochial views of TV and radio.
I need work: I whip through the want ads, looking in particular for wordy-type jobs.  He must rely on someone else to read the ads to him – and he knows not to bother with jobs that are anything but menial labour.
I tailor my resume on my computer to suit whatever I’m applying for.  He can’t write up one resume.  If he did, he’d have to reveal that he left school after eighth grade because he couldn’t cope (he can learn, but not with the teaching methods used in public schools) ...or his situation at home was too unstable to enable him to handle the pressure ...or else he is from another country and struggling to learn English.
More than three items on my shopping list, and it goes on paper.  He just has to remember everything.
I want to cook some dish I’ve never cooked before, and I can find a score of recipes for it by Googling.  He’s stuck with the few he knows.
My date book is loaded with appointments, consults, dates, special notes.  He schedules his life by memory.
Filling out forms—income tax, mortgage applications, emergency info for school, intake for medical services—I consider an unpleasant necessity of life.  He’d love to be able to.
I want to call a plumber or a lawyer or a dentist or an acquaintance whose number I don’t know: I get out the phonebook.  He has to be satisfied with the numbers he’s memorized or can ask someone for.  When he gets a bill, he has to have someone read it to him.
I have to write an important note to my child’s teacher or doctor.  He has to get someone else to write it (possibly the kid, when old enough) and he can only sign it with an “X.”
I sign a contract: if I don’t read the fine print, it’s my own stupid fault.  It isn’t his.  Being unable to read caveats, he is easy for the unscrupulous to rip off.
I want to know what’s going to be on TV tonight; I read the listings.  He’s limited to pre-announcements on other programs.
I want to know what ingredients are in a packaged food I’m buying, or a bottle of pills: I read the label.  He has to live without that knowledge or—with the indignity it entails—rely on someone else.
My young child gets a gift that says “Some assembly required.”  I carefully follow the enclosed instructions.  All he has is a bag of parts, the picture on the box, and an eager, impatient kid.
I curse that I don’t score perfect on the written part of the driver’s test.  He is hesitant even to try it.  He won’t be able to read street signs, or the vehicle owner’s manual, or license forms, or insurance documents.
I make friends and contacts all over the world, on the Internet.  All such opportunities are closed to him.
I journal; I track my life, my observations, my changes.  Sometimes when I read it back, I realize that my memories of the past are distorted.  He has to live without such a personal record and what it could teach him.
I draw inspiration, comfort and enlightenment from scripture or other spiritual writings.  He can only do so if someone else is willing to take the time to read them to him.
Helping my kids with homework, I can share with them all sorts of little tips and tricks that helped me become a straight-A student.  His kids are on their own.
Over and over I hear that the best way to give youngsters a head start in reading is to read them a story every night.  So I do, and when they start to read along, I correct and teach.  He can’t, and so he worries that if his kids grow up to live the same nightmare he is living... it will be his own fault.
I want to get involved in politics, I study the issues, learn about the parties and candidates, hand out brochures, participate in online forums, write letters to the editor.  Politically, he is invisible, because politics runs on the written word.
All around me is information.  Meaning leaps out at me from every piece of paper, book spine, package, window on my computer screen.  There’s a world of it available with a click of a mouse; I can research any topic under the sun.  He is a stranger in a strange land of incomprehensible symbols.  The doors easily and unthinkingly opened by others around him are locked and barred to him.  Knowledge is power, and without the primary way of receiving it, he is relatively powerless, and feels it keenly.  Competing in a verbal world, he knows he is at a huge disadvantage.
To manage in the information age, he has to work twice as hard.  Knowing the stigma attached to illiteracy, he uses many strategies to conceal his inability -- though he knows people will see through it anyway.  That takes even more work, as well as the shame inherent in the ruse.  Keeping himself convinced he isn’t stupid is a constant effort.
It’s a Catch-22.  He’d love to be able to train for well-paying work -- but without well-paying work, how can he afford reading lessons?
This is where the YMCA comes in.  Using funds raised through the Novel Marathon and other channels, and hours contributed by trained volunteers (many of them retired teachers), the Y offers free instruction in literacy, numeracy, computer and basic life skills to out-of-school teens and adults. 
Local literacy programming has produced some amazing success stories, including the recently deceased and much-loved centenarian Clarence Brazier, who learned to read in his 90s.  Some grads have since opened businesses of their own; others can now read and write well enough to help their children with their homework.
All have seen their self confidence grow in leaps and bounds as a result of the success they have had.
They are overcoming all the above challenges.  The squiggles that are everywhere in life are becoming meaningful to them, opening up the whole world.  They are going on to seize control of life, to participate, to contribute, to enjoy, and to make their mark in the world.  They are enriched, and so is the economy and society itself.  We ALL benefit from this work.
The novel marathon itself is kind of crazy. Well, not kind of. Just plain crazy is more like it. On July 13 at 8 p.m. a bell will sound in one small room in Huntsville, Ontario, and 30 mostly INSANE writers will start writing and keep writing ALL WEEKEND LONG. Some will carry on writing straight through to Monday, eating, not-sleeping and breathing the writing process. Some people actually will write most of a novel, start to finish, in those three days. Me? I'm not starting a novel, I'm going to FINISH a novel, the story I've been bleeding over for longer than I care to admit. I'm in the home stretch and I think another 30,000 words will get me to the finish line. And you know what? I do believe a weekend of intense writing should be enough time to get it done.

I think it's amazing that writers give up one of the prime weekends of their short summers to raise money for adult literacy programs. It's taking a skill they love and take for granted, and giving it to others.

I know money is tight. I KNOW. If you don't have anything to share, just wish me luck. If you can spare a few dollars, just click HERE and you can easily donate as little or as much as you like for the cause. I have set a rather lofty goal for myself – $2,500 – and so far I have raised $180 (which is why I thought it was high time to get busy and get fundraising). I have the following people to thank for their very generous online donations:

THANK YOU SO MUCH! Big hugs to you all!

I'm going to start listing the names underneath the Muskoka chair on the right, of everyone who donates. Perhaps I'll see your name there some day soon!

Thanking you in advance, dear friends, for your donations and/or your good wishes!

For more about the Muskoka Novel Marathon, click HERE.

To donate, click HERE.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Growling at graffiti

I cannot drive across our bridge without my blood boiling. Some idiot, and I use that term loosely, spray painted graffiti on it.

I wasn't going to take a photo of it because I didn't want to glorify the shite-head who did it but now I want to share with you how crappy this is. So let me get on my flip-flops and grab my camera and hustle out to take a photo. Yes, I'm still wearing my pink "Best Mom" nightgown. (It's crazy sexy. Makes Dave positively horn-swallowed, it does.) I don't have time to go get dressed. So wait a few minutes and I'll be right back.

OK? Hang on...


Still there? So let me just say, I live in the boonies. A car goes by our house about once a year. OK, so maybe twice a year. My chances of going out to the car in my nightgown and flip-flops and being seen by another living human being are slim to none. Well guess what. There I was, trying to work the confounded car door clicker, when a truck went by. With some truck guy in it. I tried to put my arms casually over my flapping boobs so he wouldn't see I was braless. There was no point trying to hide hairy tree trunk legs growing out of too-short pink polka-dotted coffee-stained Best Mom nightgown. Maybe, I thought, he wouldn't notice my large pinkness beside the navy blue Jeep and the brown garage. But oh no, he waved.

Putting aside my humiliation I drove down to the bridge and snapped these photos:

It's cloudy here this morning so the grey skies don't do the "black bridge"
justice but it really is a beautiful landmark and one of the first reasons
I fell in love with this area.

Stupid mindless graffiti on the bridge. 
I love the bridge. LOVE! When we drove down this road for the first time to look at our future home, the bridge took my breath away. I remember saying to Dave, "Can you imagine driving to work every day and crossing this fantastic bridge?" I was squealing with excitement! Since then the bridge has given me many fabulous moments.

The first winter we were here we had an incredible snowstorm
and were literally snowed in. After a couple days of being
trapped at home (a wonderful magical time), the sun came
out and the plows cleared a path and Dave and I walked
down to the bridge.

Talk about beautiful. Why would anyone want to deface something like this?

Naturally we chose the bridge as a backdrop for
our wedding day photos.

So don't you just want to beat the living tar out of the stupid, worthless, useless, brainless, gutless, soulless, heartless, ball-less piece of walking talking turd that did this?

There are only a few bridges left like this in Muskoka. They're old and they're starting to decay but they're beautiful and historic and they say "Muskoka" just as much as the sparkling water of our lakes and rivers, and the dark majesty of our forests.

Meh. Soon as I saw it I wanted to get a sandblaster or some paint and get rid of it, but I was afraid someone would see me goofing around and call the coppers. So I wrote a letter to the newspaper and I called the township and apparently soon the public works department will come by with their anti-stupid-head disposal team and make the bridge pretty once more.

Speaking of pretty, I thought you should see me in my photography gear. (Yes, I'm embarrassed to be seen by a truck-guy but I'm willing to post it online. You guys are different though – you're my best buds and you couldn't care less what I look right, right? Hey guys?)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tim VanSant may or may not be funny looking: bizarre questions for Tim VanSant numero dos (and by the way the pig photo really freaks me out)

Q: Why do we never see a photo of you? A BIG photo. I googled you, see, and found only two. In one you were ice climbing or something and your face was covered with goggles (not googles). In the second photo, well, that's a lie – the second photo was so small I couldn't even GUESS what was in it... So what's the deal with you and photos? Are ya funny lookin' or are you hiding from the feds?
A: Who you callin' funny lookin'?
It's simply not true that there are no photos of me online. Granted, I haven't posted any recently. And most of the ones that are posted don't have my name on them. In fact [speaking of modesty], I once bared all -- shocking, but true. Brace yourself. This is not for the faint of heart.

And I bet you thought that I don't just break cameras with my looks, I broke the whole damn Google Images thing. Be honest, now. To be fair though, I not only have posted photos without my name on them, I have appeared in disguise. [About that hiding from the feds thing, I plead the fifth. Wait, you're in Canada. Is "plead the fifth" too much of a U.S.-centric reference?] 

Anyway, I suppose you might have seen this

or this

or this

or this

and you simply could not tell it was me. I'm like a freakin' chameleon, right? Comes in handy for those double-naught super secret spy missions that I -- but I've said too much already. I don't want to give you the wrong impression.

The fact is, I'm more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. I used to post a lot of photos, but of places I went and people I saw. Photos of me? Not so much. So I'm not very visible online. In fact, I practice being invisible. It's a Jedi mind trick. 
Cathy: Let me see your photos. 
Obi-Tim: [with a small wave of his hand] You don't need to see his photos. 
Cathy: We don't need to see his photos. 
Obi-Tim: These aren't the photos you're looking for. 
Cathy: These aren't the photos we're looking for. 
Obi-Tim: He can go about his business. 
Cathy: You can go about your business. 
Obi-Tim: Move along. 
Cathy: Move along... move along. 

And just like that, I vanish before your eyes. But seriously, ice climbing is one of the coolest [no pun intended] things I have ever done! It was a gorgeous summer day on the Mat-Su glacier in Alaska. It really was just about the best day ever. Plus, not a fed in sight in any direction. So it's one of the few photos of me that I like.

Hey, wouldn't it have been hilarious if I were really horribly disfigured? And that's why I don't allow photos of myself or post any online? And then your question brought that secret to light? And I would have been all like, "Thanks, Cathy! As if your first question didn't cause me enough emotional turmoil." And you would have been all like, "Oops, sorry Tim. My bad." And then we'd both have been like, "Well, were still friends though, right? Bygones and all." And then we would have shared a beverage and we would have laaaauuughed, because it's just so freakin' funny that my secret was out. I mean, that would have been funny... right?

Bored yet?



On the Interweb:
On the Twitter:
On Dasher, on Dancer, on Donner, on Blitzen....

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A stellar debut for North Bay Nipissing Life and some, ahem, bragging

Ok, I have to do a little bragging for a moment. I apologize in advance for making you roll your eyes and skip through to a more interesting non-bragging blog, but when a short story you write gets published in the debut issue of a slick new magazine, ya gotta share the news, know what I mean?

The magazine is North Bay Nipissing Life and it just hit newsstands in North Bay (a city about four hours north of Toronto, depending how fast you drive). Our company, Metroland North Media, started a weekly community newspaper there almost a year ago called North Bay Nipissing News and it's been doing extremely well. Readers are excited about the comprehensive community news coverage and the casual vibe. Advertisers are starting to realize that it's the paper everyone's reading and are responding accordingly. All in all, things are looking up, which is why Metroland decided to launch a slick quarterly magazine to supplement the News and provide a vehicle for celebrating the people of the area in a more in-depth way.

I designed the magazine, laid it out and made it pretty so I'm proud of it for those reasons but I'm extra pleased to have one of my short stories in the magazine. The caveat is I WORK for the magazine so it's not like the editorial heavens opened up and said, "You are the best writer known to man and we must print your story." No, it was more like I asked the editor if he was interested and he read it and said, yeah, okay. Also, I didn't get paid.

STILL. The editor has very, very strong opinions on certain things. If he didn't like my story, it wouldn't have been published. So I'm hanging on to that knowledge and celebrating it.

Kiosk is a perfect story for NBN Life. Kiosk is a ghost town in that area, about halfway between North Bay and Mattawa. You've heard me blog about it before – Dave and I go there every spring and every fall to do some fishing and camp in Algonquin Park. What used to be a lumber mill town is now nothing but ruins within the park. Which is great if you're an outdoorsy person who loves camping and loves nature, but is heartbreaking if you're one of the people who used to live here.

"Claire" is one of those people. She runs a bakery out of her log home just north of the park. She makes and sells amazing, almost legendary, butter tarts and delicious pies with crust just like my mom's. She also makes jams, jellies and sells coffee to everyone who goes by. Claire (I hope I am spelling her name correctly) grew up in Kiosk. For her the story of its demise is pure sadness. It was with people like her in mind that I wrote the short story Kiosk and year or so ago. The original story is posted here on my blog.

Gotta love that byline!

Second page spread of the story. The old photos are from Kiosk.

Last page of the spread. In case you can't see the tiny yet IMPORTANT
photo of the girl in the blue sweater, I've blown it up bigger for you, below!

That photo was taken during our honeymoon trip to Newfoundland. I love that place. Yup, chubby bare toes in a mag.

The cover.

The masthead. Look Mom, that's ME! :)


As an aside, today is a sad day for the people of the Muskoka community. We are mourning the death of Gillian Brunette, a much loved local writer who used to work for the Huntsville Forester and freelanced for many of our other publications. I can't believe cancer managed to claim her. She had such incredible enthusiasm for life, such indomitable energy and she will be missed. Today is her "Celebration of Life" and, in Gillian's case, it is a perfect term because she lived her entire life like it was a celebration. We'll miss you so much, Gillian, and in your own wise words and sunny English accent, "BLOODY HELL."